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Top five signs you’re a failure

June 25, 2010

For as long as there have been parents, there have been assholes standing around telling them they’re doing it all wrong. I have no doubt that at the dawn of mankind some jerk Neanderthal rolled his eyes when the guy in the next cave let his son ride a brontosaurus without a helmet. Of course, the methods of failure change with the times, and what’s a no-no to one generation is totally expected with the next. But I thought it might be interesting to consider the top five current signifiers that no matter what else you might be doing right, at the end of the day, you’re doing it all wrong. [Note: These apply to affluent Northeastern suburbs and, I would imagine, other places as well, but certainly they aren’t universal.]

  1. Cavities. There was a time when cavities were allowed to happen. No one wanted them to happen, of course, but they did. No longer. If your kid gets a cavity, expect looks from the hygienist. Expect a tone from the dentist, the one most people use to talk to their dog after it’s taken a shit on the sofa. Expect anyone you tell (not that you’ll tell anyone, because allowing your child to get a cavity will deal you a crushing sense of shame) to recoil slightly and lose his or her train of thought.
  2. Sunburn. This might be worse than a cavity. This is cancer. If you aren’t applying the 97 sunblock with a hose on an hourly basis, you might as well let your kid smoke two packs a day. The fact is that if your kid has so much as a faint pinkishness across the shoulders, you’re a monster.
  3. Obesity. This is the mother of all failures. You don’t have to let your kids get so big Dateline starts calling, either–if they’re even slightly chubby, the tiniest bit stout, then the pediatrician is liable to hand you a pamphlet and ask if you’re familiar with a family of foods known as vegetables. I’m not suggesting that childhood obesity isn’t a serious problem (pleasedon’tstonemeinthestreet), but the days of children simply going through physical phases is over. Your kids’ weight is a report card on your parenting skill.
  4. Television. You know what’s awesome? A box that, when you turn it on, makes your kids shut up, stop fighting, and be still long enough that you can catch your breath, maybe put in a load of laundry, make a meal, or just fantasize about the day they want nothing to do with you. But if you even think about liking that, you suck. Because letting your kids watch TV is like admitting you never loved them. Instead of letting them watch TV, you should engage them with a fun craft project, encourage them to plan and stage a play for the family’s enjoyment, or just put your head under the tire of a large truck.
  5. Independence. The quality of your parenting in general can be measured in the distance you let your kids wander from your physical person–the further away you let them get, the more you’re failing. I’ve had people see my kids running 30 or 40 feet ahead me on the sidewalk spot them, freeze, and begin to look around frantically for the parent. WHERE’S THE PARENT?! This child is running wild and free and surely had only just now managed to escape from the filthy van of his abductor! WHERE! IS! THE! PARENT??! It usually takes them several moments to spot me, because it’s inconceivable that I could be beyond a 10-foot radius. But by then, it’s too late. I’ve failed again.
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